Clay Gregory's known Megan Briggs her whole life, and he's been plenty worried about her while she's been getting medical treatment. Now she's back home and hiding away on the family ranch.
Knowing the stubborn cowgirl won't accept his help willingly, he invites her to a family wedding to help him avoid his aunt's matchmaking!
He plans to remind Meg she's still the girl who can beat him in a horse race! But as she steps out in her curve-hugging red dress, her skills on a horse are suddenly the furthest thing from his mind....
Clay Gregory stood in the middle of the barn corridor, his booted feet planted on the cold concrete and his hands shoved into the pockets of his sheepskin jacket. His breath formed frosty clouds in the air and his dark eyes glittered beneath the brown knitted hat he wore in lieu of his customary Stetson.
Meg looked away, determined to ignore him. Clay Gregory thought himself a cut above and she didn't mind taking him down a peg or two this cold March morning. She refused to glance his way again, instead giving her shovel a satisfying scrape along the stall floor. She dumped the soiled straw into a waiting wheelbarrow. She made the same action twice more, each time her heart thumping a little harder as he remained silent. The increase in her heart rate wasn't from the physical exertion, though the exercise was a welcome feeling after months of taking it easy.
Nope. The hammering pulse was one hundred percent caused by Clay. The last time he'd spoken to her it had been to accuse her of running away. She'd wanted to make him understand, but his mind had been closed. The spectre of cancer had killed most of her romantic illusions where Clay was concerned, and his harsh words had finished the job. She'd told herself she was over her schoolgirl crush, but his censure had bothered her more than she cared to admit. Because there wasn't just a crush at stake. They'd been friends first, and the words he'd flung at her had hurt more than he knew. "Megan."
Finally. His deep voice seemed to fill the corridor and she took a measured breath. She stood the shovel on its blade and rested her hands on the handle as she looked up, meeting his gaze dead-on. "Hello, Clay."
He took a step forward. Meg gripped the shovel handle and stepped back, resuming her task. She had to keep working. She didn't want to talk to Clay, not this morning. Facing things one at a time was what she intended to do and Clay Gregory's closed mind was not on the list for today.
"You're back," he said, and she realized he was only a few feet behind her.
"Yes, I'm back. Thanks for noticing."
"I came looking for Dawson."
Oh, so he wasn't here to see her after all. She bit down on her lip to keep from blurting out the sharp reply that had formed in her head. There was no reason for her pride to be hurt. Clay had said some very painful things last spring. When he'd accused her of running away he was right. She had been, but her reasons had been solid. At least to her. She made the best decision she could and she didn't regret it one bit. She was here now because she'd made the decision to fight with all she had. If Clay didn't like it that was his problem.
"We had some problems with calves last night," she said blandly. "Dawson went back to bed and I said I'd do the horses."
She didn't need to look at Clay to know he was scowling. He had a way of frowning that made a line form between his eyebrows. When she'd still been able to tease him she'd called it a penny slot, and many a time she'd wanted to smooth the crease away but she'd been too chicken to touch him in such an intimate manner.
She'd save herself that humiliation, thank you very much. The only thing worse than having a crush on her brother's best friend while growing up had been the possibility of acting on it and being rejected. As she surely would have been. Clay had never shown the slightest interest in her that way. He'd always treated her like an annoying little sister.
"Give me the shovel," he said, and his long arm reached around and closed over hers on the black handle.